Fashion & Freedom

Manchester Art Gallery

Fashion &
Freedom

Emilia Wickstead

British-based and New Zealand born, Emilia Wickstead spent her formative years in Milan and graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2007. She worked at Armani, Proenza Schouler, Narciso Rodriguez and Vogue in New York and Milan, before returning to London to establish her own label in 2008. She has shown at London Fashion Week since 2012.

2016
Wool
Shoes: Charlotte Olympia for Emilia Wickstead

Emilia Wickstead’s piece for Fashion & Freedom was informed by her research into women’s societal and “political evolution” during and after the First World War, as well as examination of dazzle camouflage, used on navy vessels during the war. Her piece reflects her aim to show the dual nature of the situation for women after the war.

Emilia Wickstead 2016. Photography: Jez Tozer

“When I researched the dazzle ships of the First World War, I was drawn to their appearance and design – I found there was something modern and fresh in the way lines and patterns were used, and this was a great starting point for my design. Once I looked into dazzle ships further, I found that they were not used purely for camouflage; their main purpose was not to conceal but to confuse – this to me represents the changing attitudes to, and perceptions of, women after the war as society and its restrictions were shifting. Each ship was unique and this was such a unique time for women; I am so inspired by their ability to secure comfort and happiness whilst they are exploring their identity.

“I wanted to show both elements of the post-war fashion culture – although women adapted hugely after the war, there was still a certain degree of conservatism in dress which I reference in the hem line and neck of the dress.”

The holes in the middle represent the breaking of molds – women having become freer to do and wear what they wanted. They also suggest the lifebuoys thrown out to sea during the war. I think here is something quite romantic about the notion of the saviour and the sentiments of the men returning from the war and back to their loved ones.

For me, this project was really about experimenting with the way women dress and pushing boundaries, in an almost conservative way. It’s a bit of an oxymoron – which made it so important to get the aesthetic of the dress just right.”

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